Is There Such A Thing As ‘Normal’ Drinking?

Is There Such A Thing As ‘Normal’ Drinking?

“Is my drinking normal?”

I used to ask myself this question all the time. At the height of my drinking career, my alcohol intake certainly didn’t feel ‘normal’. I tried all kinds of things to cut back, but nothing ever worked for long.

It wasn’t until I actually quit drinking completely that I began to wonder…. what on earth is ‘normal’ drinking anyway?

It slowly began to dawn on me that I might’ve spent years hankering after something that didn’t actually exist.

If you’re stuck in the same place I was – yearning to be a ‘normal’ drinker – consider this:

 

When you really think about it, there’s nothing ‘normal’ about drinking 

Alcohol is a poison that slows down your brain function. You may lose your sense of balance and struggle to remember what you’ve said or done. 

Side effects of withdrawal from alcohol include nausea, vomiting, lethargy, headaches, tremors, heart palpitations and seizures.

The fact that we choose to do this to ourselves – and we’ve made it culturally acceptable and cool to do so – is pretty weird when you think about it! What’s even stranger is that in most other areas of life, we’re super health conscious and cautious. So why take such risks with this drug?

We know alcohol is dangerous – those old myths about the health ‘benefits’ of drinking have been thoroughly debunked. The latest research shows there’s no safe level of alcohol consumption at all.

 

If there’s no such thing as ‘normal’ smoking, why would there be ‘normal’ drinking?

When it comes to all other drugs, we’re very clear: there is no ‘normal’. No one aspires to be a ‘normal’ heroin user or a ‘normal’ smoker. There’s no such thing.

With those drugs, we readily accept that it’s hard to control them – if you use them, it’s normal to become addicted to them. And yet with alcohol, we expect the opposite.

When someone struggles with booze we blame the user, not the drug. We give that person a label: alcoholic. This label implies their behaviour is unusual, wrong or abnormal, when it’s actually incredibly normal to become addicted to an addictive substance!

I find it very interesting that we don’t call heroin users ‘heroin-oholics’ and we don’t call smokers ‘nicotine-oholics’.

 

There’s no official definition of ‘normal’ drinking

Your idea of normal drinking is probably not the same as the next person. Is it drinking like your partner? Or your friends? Is it being able to have one or two and then stop?

What about drinking in the morning? Surely that’s not ok… unless you’re catching an early morning flight. Apparently then it’s perfectly acceptable to have a pint with breakfast!

Most people are more worried about their alcohol intake than they let on – particularly those who boast about how little they drink. The author Jason Vale puts it like this:

“If I kept saying to you that I was in ‘control’ of my banana intake, that I only have them a few times a week and that I can even go two complete days without bananas… wouldn’t you immediately know I had a problem with bananas?”

 

‘Normal drinkers’ get addicted to alcohol

If you only take one thing from this blog, make sure it’s this: it’s normal to become addicted to an addictive substance. Especially when it’s something like alcohol, the most normalised drug on the planet.

It’s the drug you grew up watching your parents use; it’s glamorised, romanticised and marketed as the solution to all your problems. No wonder it’s so appealing.

Culturally, it’s very convenient for us to pretend that drinking is black and white; that you’re either a normal drinker or a raging alcoholic.

The truth is that thousands – if not millions – of drinkers are stuck somewhere in the middle, in the grey zone. And that may not be a happy or comfortable place to be… but it is completely predictable and unsurprising. 

 

If you need support to stop drinking or take a break from booze, click here for details of my online course.

 

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35 Comments

  1. Totally agree. I took your course last April Kate and recently celebrated 1 year sober! Alcohol free has become my ‘normal’ now. It doesn’t make sense for me to live life any other way.

    Reply
    • Congratulations Lynne! I’m so pleased to hear this. Wishing you many more amazing, alcohol-free days ahead! ♥️

      Reply
    • Well I quit drinking 29 days ago. I slipped up when I was in Mexico. I had part of a Margarita. Before that it had been a couple of months. I went through the Holidays, went to parties and other things that I would usually drink at. I was just a little bummed when I thought others were having more fun than me.
      But I feel better each day! My relationship with my boyfriend who is also my best friend is wonderful! We would not be together if I was still binge drinking. This site has helped me so much! And my waking up to how it was affected my life! I live in wine country and I’m glad not to be joining all these women who indulge.
      I’m working on my sister too.
      So thanks so much.
      I never want to drink again

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      • Goodness was this written for me!!? Weekends wasted hungover and full of regret and not remembering much, Don’t drink in the week…. always thought : that’s normal right? So much pressure from social events and friends…really believed it’s em not the drug.. looking forward to some sober weekends… I can kick this… thanks..

        Reply
  2. Everything you said
    Applied directly to me .
    I’ve stopped drinking for the last 6 months and only slipped up twice .
    But every day it gets easier and easier to not think about drinking
    Thanks for your help

    Reply
    • Well said! Excellent article! I’m nearly 16 months sober now and articles like this help reinforce why I’m doing it! Thanks!

      Reply
    • Well done Linda – sounds like great progress! Wishing you all the best with your alcohol free journey. Keep going, it’s worth it 🙂

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    • Thanks, Kate. Grateful to be sober and feeling good. I agree with everything you discussed and hope the day comes when most folks recognize just like nicotine or heroin, no amount of alcohol is normal.

      Reply
  3. My resolve feels stronger this time. Your blog is inspirational and I have a copy of Surviving Wine O’Clock on my desktop along with a motivational statement. My biggest trap has always been the end of the workday. Well, I’m choosing to play a new record tonight, one with sleep and a book rather than a bottle. 3 days in, I can do this. Thank you for this inspiration and the courage!

    Reply
    • Brilliant. Remember to listen to your cravings at that time of day – they always have a message for you and a clue as to what you really need (it’s never alcohol you need, always something else). You sound very focused Michelle, but if you need some support in future, here are details of my online course: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

      Reply
  4. I’m only 3 weeks without drinking after realising I was drinking damagingly for almost all of my adult life (I’m 43) and no longer wanting it to be what my life seemed to revolve around as it had become more of a crutch than I had wanted to admit out loud. And whilst I would hope I wasn’t an alcoholic (just weekend drinking but that weekend started to begin on a Thursday!) it was definitely an addiction. Thank you for your site – it’s great to know other people think similarly about this issue.

    Reply
    • You’re definitely in good company here! Many congratulations on your 3 weeks Nicole 🙂

      Reply
  5. I just hit 10 weeks of sobriety after a complicated relationship with alcohol through my 20s, and I am/was considering going back to drinking “normally.” This post was a good reminder of exactly what is WRONG with any drinking, but I’m still not sure where I stand. I keep hearing “but you’re not going to stop drinking FOREVER, right?” from people close to me, and I just don’t think I know the answer yet.

    Reply
    • Well done on the 10 weeks. You don’t need to know the answer to that question yet – it’s far too early for anyone to expect you to have decided that. It’s perfectly fine to stop for a few months.. and then a few months more… you don’t need to make any forever decisions or have it all figured out 🙂

      Reply
  6. This post really resonated with me. When I decided no more drinking a few days ago, it was almost a relief. Like acknowledging it just needs to get out of my life. It’s also such a game changer to see alcohol as the problem, not people. You put it really well. Alcohol is dangerous and addictive, and it did to me what it’s designed to do. I’m using the I’m DONE Drinking app, and in 2.5 days, I haven’t had 10 drinks. I’m at once so sad that I would have had 10 drinks in 2.5 days and so relieved that I’m done.

    Reply
    • It will be very motivating to see those figures add up. Go for it Cheryl!

      Reply
  7. I confess, I’m a bananaholic. I just realized that today. Ha ha
    The correlate to “there is no normal drinking” is “there’s no need for me to wish I was a normal drinking” because that is a mythical creature. Happily alcohol free, 8 ish months.
    Thanks Kate.

    Reply
    • Ha ha! Many congratulations on your 8 months Tracey – I’m pleased to hear all is well 🙂

      Reply
  8. So…I had 2 weeks in and I fell totally and completely off the wagon. I have had wine almost everyday but a couple days off here and there. I am so disappointed in myself and not sure if I can do this. My husband likes to drink beer every evening and has no desire to quit so it is really hard. I am feeling really hopeless that this will never happen for me.

    Reply
    • Hi JoAnn, I’m sorry to hear you’re going through a tricky time right now. I’d be happy to help you with this, as you really do deserve better. An alcohol free lifestyle is such a pleasure and a joy compared to the misery of being trapped drinking.

      If you’d like to work with me directly, the best way to do that is via my online coaching programme – here are all the details you need: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

      If you’re looking for help before my next 6 week course starts in July, you may also wish to have a look at my bootcamp class. It’s a short self study programme and is available now: https://thesoberschool.com/bootcamp

      Reply
  9. I’m loving my sober life!

    Reply
    • Sorry, hit Submit too soon! Only been 40 days for me but feel and sleep so much better! Thanks for the encouragement!

      Reply
      • Well done on those 40 days Lucy! Keep going – it just keeps getting better and better 🙂

        Reply
  10. What perfect timing, Kate. Thank you for this subject. I’m coming up on 7 years sober, and I’m a content 65 years old. Yet, last evening I wondered, “Maybe when we’ve found a happy assisted living community someday, i.e., 15-20 years hence, I will be able to enjoy wine with dinner then–in a communal setting. Yet, I read your article today and shook my head, “Alcohol is a poison that slows down brain function. You may lose your sense of balance and struggle to remember what you’ve said or done. Side effects of withdrawal from alcohol include nausea, vomiting, lethargy, headaches, tremors, heart palpitations and seizures.”
    So why in the world would I want to risk my balance being off, having heart palpitations or risk of seizure when I’m in my 80’s? These are not gifts in a sparkly package, and I’m sure I will be able to enjoy a happy communal setting when I’m older without drinking alcohol It is certain I will be safer. — Hugs for setting me straight, Kate.

    Reply
    • Sounds as if this came along at just the right time! Sometimes we just need a reminder of what drinking is really like – this drug is so glamorised and normalised, it’s easy to forget. Many congratulations on your 7 years!

      Reply
  11. I love this blog, yes, for me, there is no ‘normal drinking’ as I’ve been saying to some friends at the weekend. I was talking with a friend on Saturday about a party we are going to and she agreed that there’s no need to get drunk but then said, ‘I’ll just have a long shandy’. I explained that I can’t do that because I don’t know where to stop so I will be having a tonic water and she agreed that’s the way to go for me. We ended our phone conversation with me saying, ‘who needs alcohol to have a good time anyway?’ I’m so glad I’m doing this course, I came in about 3/4 hour ago from working and decided to do a barre workout that my friend was telling me about yesterday, I was tired but now I feel SO GOOD! Going to enjoy an early night with a book, true relaxation. So glad I’ve changed my mindset and quit the booze, your course has changed my whole attitude towards alcohol, it IS a mind-altering drug. I actually sat in a pub (!) with an espresso at lunch-time writing up my journal comments on the course about 5 things I am enjoying AF, I thought later I should have self-care in there, actually, it was very difficult to nail it down to only 5. Thanks Kate!

    Reply
    • Wonderful stuff – I’m glad you’re getting so much out of the course Patricia! It sounds as if so much has shifted for you already. Well done 🙂

      Reply
  12. Totally agree with everything you say Kate and see not having a drink last night as major achievement! But it won’t last as I’m married to an alcoholic who hides bottles in his office and derides me for being ‘sensible’ but who I love too much to leave. Can’t commit to your course but need support, someone to talk to.

    Reply
    • The best way of getting that support would be to join the course – I think you’d find it completely transformational. Make sure you watch these videos of my other clients talking about how life changing it’s been for them: https://thesoberschool.lpages.co/the-sober-school-reviews/
      I look forward to working with you when you’re ready to take action. It all starts with you Karen 🙂

      Reply
  13. Love this post – so true. I’m 660 days AF and Kate’s logic approach to drinking helped me calm myself down (I was getting into a real tizz about my drinking) and be kind to myself.
    It all seemed so – logical.

    Alcohol is a drug – drugs are addictive (even if they’re socially acceptable) – therefore, If I drink, I will become addicted. (And addiction looks different on everyone so no comparing because that’s only a race to the bottom!)

    What I wasn’t ready for was the vast, astonishing improvement of my life on a daily basis.
    The small joys of AF living just keep popping up like the meerkats in the dessert!
    My favourite now is walking past the aisle in the supermarket & not having any kind of twinge or mental planning about how & when I would stock-up & consume.
    It’s just not on my radar anymore.

    Alcohol was chewing up so much of my mental bandwidth there was no room left for all the fantastic things that were going on all around me.

    Anyone who’s wondering about stopping drinking..if it isn’t the best decision you make then I’ll buy you a new hat. Promise!

    Reply
    • I just love this post Jane! It really made me smile – so many great points here 🙂

      Reply
  14. Hi Kate, this blog really resonates with me. No, there is nothing “normal” about voluntary self-poisoning, a very slow form of suicide. And still, after 100+ AF days, I find myself contemplating the lost “glamour” of this drug’s inclusion in my life. Beggars belief doesn’t it?

    Reply
    • Alcohol is so glamorised and normalised, I can see how that line of thinking creeps back in. But the truth is that you’ve lost nothing – and gained so much. Keep going!

      Reply
  15. How true is everything you say.My husband wants me to drink “normally” so we can have a social drink and after 39 years of marriage he should know how much an “all or nothing” person I am
    and that I am addicted to alcohol.After a hip operation 8 weeks ago,I didn’t drink for 5 weeks because I want to give my recovery the best shot.Sadly the madness has returned.Reading the blogs and comments has made me face the problem again and hopefully I can let go of this blight on my life.Thanks for the encouragement.

    Reply
  16. I found this concept interesting. I have often heard, how he or she drinks is not normal. I never even thought about it until now. As I write this, I am looking at myself and my drinking habits. I think I have to say, they are not normal. I am joyful I came across this information as I know it will help me look openly without criticism at myself and my “normal/not normal drinking habits.

    Reply

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